The debate has died down recently. Johnny Manziel has become the new one man reality show of the NFL. Ray Rice punching his fiancé in the face and Adrian Peterson whacking his son with a tree branch, along with Roger Goodell’s responses to those incidents, have become the new hot button topics of the NFL.
I’m talking about Tim Tebow, of course. You may remember him as the guy who led Florida to a national championship in 2008 and played a key role in another one two years earlier. You may remember him for being the first to lift up the Heisman Trophy- with a Florida blue cast on his right arm, no less- as an underclassman. You may remember him for his speeches, such as the bone chilling halftime rampage in the national championship game, or the somber but determined pledge to outwork everybody else in the country after the puzzling loss to Mississippi a few months before that. And more recently, you may remember him as the guy who starting the whole “Tebowing” trend.
This article is about none of that. What Tebow did in college, on and off the field, is irrelevant. His devout Christian faith and Tebowing gesture are irrelevant. And most importantly, the wonderful person he is off the field is (for this particular topic) irrelevant.
This past weekend, I watched more pro football than I’ve watched all year. First I watched some of Jacksonville-Tennessee, followed by the two Saturday games (Philadelphia-Washington and San Diego-San Francisco). Then I enlisted in the help of NFL Red Zone to watch all the Sunday games at once, which was followed by the Sunday Night Football battle between the Seahawks and the Cardinals. Finally, I capped my NFL weekend by watching the end of the Broncos and Bengals.
From this extensive weekend of studying various NFL teams, the conclusion was easy to make: Tim Tebow absolutely has a place in the NFL.
Before I explain why, though, we need to be real with ourselves. Tim Tebow will never be a Hall of Fame QB. He is not, nor will he ever be, a better QB than Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even Ben Roethlisberger. Anybody who still believes that he is needs to let go of that. I am not arguing this, and anybody who does is plain silly.
But to say that Tebow doesn’t belong in the NFL at all, even as a backup, is also silly. I watched some QB’s this past weekend who had no business being on a practice field, let alone the NFL. And watching them made me more certain than ever that Tebow belongs in the NFL. Somewhere.
Look around the NFL. Are you going to tell me that Josh McCown is better than Tim Tebow? Are you going to tell me that Ryan Lindley is more deserving of an NFL roster spot than Tebow? Do you honestly believe that Mark Sanchez belongs in the NFL more than Tebow? How about Kyle Orton? Geno Smith? Jimmy Clausen? Johnny Manziel? Zach Mettenberger? Shaun Hill? Case Keenum? Brian Hoyer? Can you tell me with a straight face that each and every one of these QB’s deserves to be playing professional football and Tim Tebow doesn’t?
The mechanics of a QB are important, yes. I’m not in any way ignoring them, and I will address them later in the article. But the ultimate goal for a franchise is to win games. Not be the sexiest, not be the most exciting, not even necessarily to be the most talented. It’s to win games. And despite the fact that Tebow does have anywhere near the talent of the great NFL QB’s, he can win games as well as any of them.
As an NFL starting QB, Tim Tebow is 9-6 (60%), and has won a playoff game. Here is the complete list of current NFL quarterbacks with better win percentages than Tebow and two or more playoff wins: Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick. Yep, that’s it. Tim Tebow really does have a better winning percentage than Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo. Tebow really does have more playoff wins than Andy Dalton, Cam Newton and Nick Foles, and as many as Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan. Does that shock you? It shouldn’t.
Yes, I acknowledge the fact that Tebow only started in 15 games, and that Eli Manning and Drew Brees play more than that every season- and that they’ve each started every game of every season (or most, anyway). Tebow played for most of one season and the tail end of a second, while Manning and Brees have been stuck on teams with few pieces surrounding them to help them out. I get that. Without Victor Cruz and an offensive line, Eli is left to win games with O’Dell Beckham Jr. (who he’s only had for a little more than half the season) and a young Andre Williams. Meanwhile, Brees quarterbacks the team with the most horrendous defense in an NFC South that’s filled with them. Even two-win Tampa has allowed fewer points per game than New Orleans. Again, I totally understand that this is not the QB’s faults.
But Tebow wasn’t exactly playing with a Pro Bowl team in Denver either. That Broncos defense got trashed for 40+ points more than I’ve ever seen from a division winning team. You can sort of expect it from Green Bay (49 points) and from New England (twice- 45 and 41), but certainly not from a Ryan Fitzpatrick led Buffalo team (40) or Detroit (45). And giving up 32 and 29 to Minnesota and San Diego teams that totaled 11 wins that year is nothing to be proud of, either. Offensively, the Broncos were just as limited. Eric Decker makes a decent third or fourth option, yet he was the Broncos’ best receiver in 2011. And only having one running back (Willis McGahee) who can run for more yards than Tebow, is not exactly the best recipe for offensive success. Blame some of this on Tebow if you want, but note that the third leading rusher on that team was Lance Ball, who totaled 404 yards… compared to Tebow’s 660. And that’s despite Tebow not playing the first four and a half games.
The fact of the matter is, Tebow took over a 1-4 team with major weaknesses on both sides of the ball, and won them their division plus a Wild Card playoff game. That’s certainly not grounds for hailing him as the best QB ever, but doesn’t that make you as a GM of a random four win team intrigued enough to want to see more? That’s the entire premise of this article. Not that he should kick Tom Brady out of his starting job, but merely that he deserves a roster spot on a team with no proven better options.
Of course, Tebow has lots of work to do if he wants to be a successful NFL quarterback. His mechanics need to be retooled. He still has a tendency to drop the ball too low on his windup. His release point needs to be adjusted. That’s what scares teams off. Some teams have a right to not consider him because of this. You know. The perennial powerhouses with star QB’s. The playoff teams who already have a QB that’s not necessarily a star, but has cemented himself as the team’s leader- like Baltimore with Joe Flacco. The so-so teams who have star QB’s, or promising young ones. But there are 32 teams in the NFL, and several of them- more specifically, several GM’s- don’t have a reason like that not to take Tebow. Yes, I’m talking to you, GM’s of terrible teams. You know who you are, too: Tampa, Tennessee, Cleveland, Houston, Oakland, the Jets (even though, again, he’ll never go back there) and St. Louis are the obvious ones, and you could make the argument that Jacksonville, Arizona, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Washington and San Francisco wouldn’t be hurting themselves by signing him to a backup role. Tebow’s negatives are fixable through good coaching and Tebow’s reputable work ethic.
Objectively assessing Tebow’s career, I would currently categorize his worth as an NFL QB somewhere between fair and good. That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement, but that’s certainly more positive than any objective assessment of Josh McCown’s NFL career, or Ryan Lindley’s, or Shaun Hill’s, or even Zach Mettenberger’s. Yet those guys, and others of similarly modest respectability, currently have jobs in the NFL and Tebow doesn’t. Some of that may be by choice, as being an SEC analyst may appeal to Tebow more than being a third string QB, but there are teams out there who don’t have a single QB who’s proven himself to be better than Tebow on their active rosters, like Tennessee, Tampa or even the Jets (even though he’d never go back there).
Why teams who have struggled mightily did not take a chance on him this year is beyond me. Yes, he currently has a job as an analyst, but there is a clause in his contract that allows him to leave with little to no notice for a job in the NFL. Does Tampa Bay really believe that Josh McCown is more fit to lead the franchise than Tebow? Their failure to even give Tebow a tryout says that they do. Whatever, that’s why you’re 2-13. Or is that on purposes they can get a top draft pick? But see, that’s the real problem. Nobody is even willing to give Tebow a job on a short term basis. They would rather struggle with whoever they have and lose games than take a chance on Tebow and see what happens. That may come off as rather biting and sarcastic, but that is what the league wide refusal to sign Tim Tebow is saying about the NFL’s worst teams.
He deserves another shot. That’s all I’m saying. His 9-6 record on a Denver team that was far worse overall than they were perceived to be has earned him another shot on an NFL roster, and that’s putting aside the fact that some of the QB’s who currently have jobs are actually worse mechanically than he is. Now add that back in the equation, plus the fact that Tebow is a proven leader with off the charts intangibles, and he is more than deserving of an opportunity of an NFL roster spot.